Junya Watanabe is renowned for his innovative avant-garde take on high-fashion. He often plays with unique materials and cuts, altering the concept of clothing by taking it into sculptural, almost architectural fields – and his Spring/Summer 2024 womenswear collection is the perfect exploration of Watanabe-isms.
There were plenty of Dark Lord black ensembles, and many outfits that steered closer towards an exhibition sculpture than they did clothes. That’s why we love Watanabe, and that’s why we’re zooming in on some of the best looks and elements of SS24.
Don’t Touch the Opening Look
Spikes and scaffolding seldom lend themselves to the ideals of wearability, but that’s not what Junya Watanabe is going for here. Instead, expect to find this piece being worn by Lady Gaga during her next tour, or by Tilda Swinton on the red carpet – if the Met Gala theme was ever “couture, but make it terrifying.”
Tubes of rectangular neoprene clashed with fin-like panels to create a dress of gargantuan proportions. It says, “don’t come near me,” in a final fashion boss kind of way.
Look Six: the Evolution of Look One
If the first look was too avant-garde for you, perhaps Look Six is the one that will be more wearable on a (somewhat) day-to-day basis. You’ll certainly stand out, but that’s the point.
Folds of fabric created softer shapes on the body, wrapping it as opposed to protecting it. While still strong in its visual impact, this is seen alongside a pair of athletic shorts on the leg – perfect for when you have the gym at five, and a Berghain rave at six.
Look 12: a Coat That Will Stop Anything
If Junya Watanabe knows one thing, it’s how to design a stellar coat. Look 12 showcased his finest ability – taking the dystopian natures of the aforementioned looks and distilling it into something truly wearable, even to the shops.
This coat was, of course, served in black. It features a large cowl neckline that falls into the collar, creating lapels that carve around the body and subsequently give the coat its silhouette.
The structure is made from mesh, itself a subversion of what you’d typically use to make a coat. And all this combined makes this one of the best pieces from SS24, because we can actually justify the extravagance.
Look 18: a Spiky Bike-y
Junya Watanabe’s coat game also extends to jackets, as proven by the elevated biker jacket in Look 18. Here, the designer plays with black leather to create another sculptural masterpiece, altering the classic biker jacket with blade-like shoulder pads that are later echoed below on the shoulders.
It continues down into a trench coat’s length, adding layers of leather that are zippered, allowing the wearer to change the silhouette further. It’s paired with buckles, poppers, and other asymmetrical zips, per biker norms.
Look 27: Dangerous Denim
Spikes were a concurrent theme for SS24, and are the talking point for Look 27. Watanabe’s use of denim is manipulated in his usual way, as the piece is made up of a patchwork of denim swatches that are all stitched together using OG orange stitching.
The cleverness of this piece lies in its coincidences: the panelling is triangular, which perhaps unknowingly links back to the triangular panels of fabric that dart awkwardly from the body.
But it’s not all harsh. Watanabe also uses wraps of denim on the shoulder to create softer padding, and allows the bottom of the dress to drape as another nod to one of his signature design tropes.
Look 36: Chanel Tweed, but F*ck it up
Are you the kind of person that looks at a Chanel tweed jacket and thinks: “If only it was destroyed.” If you are, then Junya Watanabe has got your back – but not your arms, and definitely not your legs.
Black sparkly tweed à la Chanel is skewed 45 degrees, seeing the gold buttons decorate the chest diagonally before leading the eye to angular pieces of tweed poking out of the body left, right, above, and below.
The bottom part of the jacket is particularly unique, as it shows intentionally fraying applied to the makeshift hem, and rips to the tweed that make it sway beneath the waist line. The collar is also rough, as are all the finishes on every panel.
Look 41: Chanel Tweed, but Make it Modern?
Tweed for Spring? Now that is groundbreaking. Particularly when it’s produced under the visionary that is Junya Watanabe, who has taken white tweed, cut it up, ballooned it out, panelled it, buttoned it, and delivered it in a contemporary manner for today’s fashion kids.
The demure all white look (consisting of a silky underlayer) was contrasting in its textures, really letting the white tweed cape shine. It features raw edges on the drape techniques applied to the arms, and a sudden pause in the zipper that finishes half the way down.
If you look closely, Watanabe also added his archetype panel detailing via stitches into the jacket. It’s all in the details for SS24.